What began as an exploration into living without technology turned into a tale of a third-generation mapmaker, passion and family.

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IT WAS, TO put it gently, a really stupid idea.

Every night, I walked by Metsker Maps in Pike Place Market, and as I passed the store one evening, I peered at the window display for the 100th time and thought: I have no idea how to use a map. And then, more brilliantly, I thought: I’ll pick a spot across the mountains, try to get there using only a map and … write about it!

I walked into Metsker and clumsily explained my idea. I told one of Metsker’s co-owners that before I left, I wanted to talk to someone who viewed maps with the same mix of pride, nostalgia and stubbornness that I have for newspapers.

She answered right away.

John Loacker.

Loacker is one of the co-owners of Metsker Maps, but he is the sole owner of Kroll Map Company, a business that has been in his family since 1920. I had no idea what to expect, but after our first conversation, I knew I had the story wrong.

It wasn’t the gimmicky journey of a hopeless millennial separated from technology. It was far more universal: a story about fathers and sons, about holding on to the past while hoping for a better future, about one man coming to terms with change in a city changing by the day.

It’s a story about John Loacker, but I hope it’s also a story about much more.